Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Reader Note on Interfering with an Officer

The following comment came in via email from reader CG (edit for format only):

All this talk about Ken Krayeske’s recent arrest for interfering with a police officer and breach of peace got me thinking about what, exactly, it means to interfere with the police.

In a Hartford Courant article that you may have missed right before the holidays, Lynne Tuouhy wrote about a recent unanimous Connecticut Supreme Court decision that allows any person who peacefully refuses to show identification to a police officer to be arrested for interfering with an officer. The law, which is Connecticut Statute 53a-167a states that Interfering with an officer is a Class A Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in prison). A person is guilty of interfering with an officer when, “such person obstructs, resists, hinders or endangers any peace officer, special policeman appointed under section 29-18b or firefighter in the performance of such peace officer’s, special policeman’s or firefighter’s duties.”

The Connecticut Supreme Court last week reversed a unanimous Appellate Court decision and declared that peacefully existing on public property and simply refusing to show identification is either obstruction, resistance or hindrance punishable by up to a year in prison. I’m not sure which colorful verb they believe it falls under! The case, State v. Aloi, centered around a man who was suspiciously standing near a fire truck on public property near his home. Granted, he had been in legal trouble before for messing with the fire truck, which created loud noise and was a nuisance near his home, yet the precedent set by this case is somewhat startling.

I’m not sure exactly what this information adds to the conversation over Mr. Krayeske’s arrest, but I thought it might be interesting for your readers to know just exactly how easy it is to be arrested for interfering with an officer. I know that many “known protestors” visit your site regularly, so they may want to know that apparently doing anything contrary to exactly what you are told to do by a police officer anywhere in Connecticut is able to land you in jail, if not just until the last glass of champagne is poured at the Governor’s ball, then possibly for up to one year.

The statute in question, Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-167a, is available here.

The decision in State v. Aloi is available here.

So, what do you think?


bluecoat said...

I don't get the point. It appears the person in question in the case cited might have committed a crime and the officer asked for id and the individual resisted. It seesm to me the officer was right and the individual was wrong. Or is the suggestion that the decison somehow broadened the law beyond what appears to be reasonable action by a cop??

Gabe said...

The conviction contested at the SC was only the conviction on Interfering with an Officer. From my reading of the case, there is no question that the defendant broke the other laws he was charged with breaking. The only question before the SC seems to be, is refusing to identify yourself to a police officer a violation of the law?

The decision, based on the construction of the statute, seems to broaden the Interfering with an Officer statute to include declining to show identification when asked.


bluecoat said...

I rarely carry identification on me anyway unless I am in a foreign country or operating a mv; so I wouldn't be able to refuse handing over anything if I were just out in public because I'd have nothing to produce. I'll leave it to you lawyers to expound on the issue - and represetn me too if I ever get into such a jam.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. Is anybody else on this site interested in moving on? Grandma sux, Ken got screwed, we all agree, we all get it, how does building a cozy little echo chamber help? Oy vey.

bluecoat said...

I thought this was a wonk discussion on a broader issue brought on by the granny incident. I was just curious about the broader issue raised on the subject about what is right and wrong.. Is that my monitor again? Excuuuse me....

Anonymous said...

A really, really slow news day.

bluecoat said...

Here ya go 12:55 digest this and the associated stories form the NYT today:White House Pushes Hard on Iraq Plan
and this form the FT todayUS to attack Iranian-backed arms networks in Iraq

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that you're right, Gabe -- it's a wonk discussion and a lawyer discussion and IMHO a Supreme Court discussion, too. My comments are based on ours, and I have not yet reviewed the statute or the decision. I hope that when I do, the following will be clarified.

Why is this not a violation of a person's fifth amendment rights? Does the right to remain silent include the right not to provide a name -- and if not, should it in the current environment?

The provision of a name may "slide" into asking for proof that your name is what it is, which slides into proof of citizenship or provision of a document, such as a credit card, drivers' license, etc. which can unleash -- through security databases - a barrage of other information about you.

Another larger implication here, actually, has to do with undocumented people and whether or not they must identify themselves and their immigration status.

There is yet another implication that does relate to the experience Ken Krayeske had. That is the implication for law abiding private citizens.

Given the amount of information (unprecedented) being gathered on private citizens who have had no brush with the law (such as the federal government's traveler database), stating one's name may visit on you any number of unpleasant experiences, and conversely, keeping it secret may be a way of keeping yourself safe. Sounds perverse, but the travelers' database contains information that citizens cannot see, petition for correction, or get deleted, and it's supposed to be in the database for FORTY years.

I do not have current information on this database, how it's being challenged, and whether it's still being used with no modifications -- but "I'll just give you my name so there aren't any problems" is a thing of the past. Ken Krayeske did nothing, apparently; but he WAS somebody. We have yet to fully uncover the facts, but it may be that his name alone (or his image, confirmed by his name) was sufficient to trigger a slew of police activity against him.

Mirror said...

the situations are not comparable. The court decision relates to an investigation of a formal complaint and actual crime . The parade incident APPEARS not to contain those ingrediants and therefore the use of "interference" statue cannot be used except as an pathetic excuse by an overreacting cop to a potential lawsuit by an outraged citizen illegally harassed .

Fuzzy Turtle said...

sure it's okay to be arrested for not coughing up id.. IN RUSSIA AND CHINA.

Get real.

Anonymous said...

So fuzzy turtle, wake up -- the issue is here.

That's a link to astory about a woman riding to work in Denver who was arrested because she refused to show her ID papers when federal officials boarded her bus while she commuted to work. It's from 2005, and I am not sure how it was resolved.

The Supreme Court has apparently ruled in favor of the right to charge someone with a crime if they refuse to provide ID when police suspect them of committing a crime. I think EPIC, quoted in the article, has a key point:

One blog discussing the notion of its being a crime to "fail to show ID" points out that there is no law that makes it a requirement to carry ID, so in effect you're arresting someone for something they re not required to do - have proof of ID.;sid=05/11/29/12312752;cid=229

another site argues that criminalizing the failure to show ID probably is not going to achieve better security, since honest people will not be carrying fake IDs and those who intend to deceive will obtain fake IDs.

"The police are required to have an objectively reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before making a Terry stop, but experience shows that officers conjure up all sorts of reasons for demanding that individuals halt and answer their questions. The detained persons have the right not to incriminate themselves, but as of today, they don't have the right to refuse to identify themselves -- except in those states that have independently protected that right as a matter of state law.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said that a requirement to identify oneself is insignificant in the context of a Terry stop. Not so.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said America is different 36 years after the Terry decision. "In a modern era, when the police get your identification, they are getting an extraordinary look at your private life." He said the ruling for Nevada "opens the door to what could become a routine fishing expedition among government databases," after police stop innocent people.

Will this decision be the precursor to a national requirement that we all carry identity papers, producable upon demand by law enforcement officers? Look for the more extreme members of Congress to use this decision as a justification for "identity checks" as a way to protect us from terrorism -- at the expense of our national values."